Creating a New History for Your Family
If you are a descendant of slaves (or any systematically oppressed ethnic group) you come from a family of survivors.
Your ancestors loved you enough to survive, so that you could be born. They lived through great pain and suffering, and not only endured, but adapted in ways that allowed the family line to continue.
They introduced into the family culture ways of relating to self and others that would avoid beatings and even murder. They trained their children to be good slaves outside the home and good slave masters in the home, controlling their own children so severely that they could trust they wouldn’t get themselves killed the moment they walked out the door.
Through slavery and Jim Crow, both eras in American history when a person of African descent could be killed for any reason (meaning no reason) without consequence for the killer, Black families taught their children how to survive.
And now we come to today, when slaves have been freed, Jim Crow laws have been overturned, the Civil Rights Act has passed, and there has even been a Black president and First Lady. While there is certainly still a tremendous amount of progress needing to be brought about, the reality is that the behaviors that were well-adapted under slavery and Jim Crow are NOT well-adapted now. In fact, it is that conditioning that presents the greatest impediment to well-being today.
The thriving that is possible for Black Americans now that was not possible back then can only be realized once we learn to uproot what I call the “poison seeds” that were planted in our families under persecution. What helped us then is the very thing hurting us now.
What Are the 5 Poison Seeds Planted in Our Families Under Slavery?
The 5 poison seeds are:
- Filtering perception to notice the worst
- Persistent low-grade aggression
- Expecting mind reading
- Expecting loss of anything gained
- Belief that anything good must be earned through sacrifice
Each of these tendencies can be traced to conditions that made them “success habits” for a slave or anyone else completely vulnerable to the whims of others. (See my free workshop at The Winning Start for more on the genesis of each poison seed, as well as a healing journey releasing the energetic patterns of the 5th seed.) Unfortunately, they are also habits that prevent African-Americans from attaining the level of financial, emotional, and relational well-being that would otherwise be available today.
How to Get the Poison Seeds Out of Our Gardens
To free yourself (and through you, your family) from these dysfunctional patterns, you must:
- Learn to recognize the poison seeds in your family patterns;
- Understand what freedom from those patterns would be like;
- Release both the energetic patterns and the habits born of those dysfunctional patterns.
If you see yourself getting angry at someone because they didn’t do what you thought they should have known to do without your needing to ask, recognize that as an irrational expectation of mind reading. There is no reason why anyone should know anything about what you need or want unless you directly ask for it. And by “ask for it” I mean “speak the words out of your mouth.”
If you see yourself getting into silly arguments, snapping at loved ones, enraged by customer service reps. or store clerks, or unable to maintain peaceful and harmonious relationships at home or at work, recognize this as a result of persistent low-grade anger. You are likely to also notice that you’re carrying tension in your body even when engaged in activities that have no conflict involved, like washing the dishes or cooking dinner. At a physical level, you are never truly relaxed. You are always ready for a fight. That is because you always feel under attack.
Once you learn to recognize the patterns that have been holding you back, you have the possibility of releasing both the energy and the habits born of those patterns. In writing I can only share with you instruction on creating new habits, but I encourage you to build on what you learn here to get some help shifting the energetic patterns as well.
So How Do We Plant New Family Gardens?
Each seed has its own remedy.
- The remedy for a tendency to notice the worst is deliberate repetition of noticing the good in each moment. Look for then savor the little things: the sunlight on your skin, a breath of fresh air, your children or pet rushing to meet you when you get home at the end of a long day, the smell of coffee roasting or bread baking. Scan for things to savor then take a few seconds to immerse your attention in that deliciousness, and do this as often as possible throughout each day.
- The remedy for persistent low-grade anger is to find outlets to creatively release the contracted physical energy (running, martial arts, dance) while intentionally cultivating an appreciation of how loved you are. Recall incidents from your life where someone was clearly demonstrating love toward you, whether it was your mother cooking your favorite food for dinner, or something one of your children said without thinking that showed just how much s/he appreciates you. Work out the anger and savor the love.
- The remedy for expecting mind reading is to cut everybody some slack. Just realize that no one can actually read your mind, and that you are now safe enough to express yourself directly without needing to “write it between the lines.”
- The remedy for expecting loss is to improve your ability to manifest what you want and continue manifesting it, then replay those stories again and again. I realize that’s easier to say than do. I do teach this and regularly see people master it, but I know that it takes much more than a paragraph in an article to do so. I can only point you in the right direction for now.
- The remedy for the belief that only suffering, sacrifice and hard work can provide desirable experiences or possessions, is to go back through your past and find the memories of times something good came to you without your doing anything to earn it. Or if you’re not good at remembering stories from your past, then do this at the end of each day: Write down the good things that happened that day that you couldn’t possibly have done anything to earn.
How do you earn the sun rising? How do you earn a smile from a stranger? How do you earn a good night’s sleep? How did you earn having access to the information in this article and what it can do for you? Emphasize the story of how wonderful things come to you through no real effort on your part, and amplify that story in your life.
Onward and Upward
By intentionally uprooting the legacy of poison seeds in your life and intentionally planting a new, healthy garden, you will be creating a new chapter in your family’s history.
I believe the true story of Black History is one of ever expanding well-being, even in the face of a social system designed to extract as much from us as possible, while denying us any access to the benefits of our contribution — a system that denies the very existence of that contribution, even while continuing to extract it.
When our ancestors chose to not just adapt to survive under brutal conditions, but reproduce generation after generation, they were engaging in a radical act of hope. They were making a deliberate investment in the future of their family. You are the return on that investment of hope.
We have not only survived hundreds of years of extreme rejection and abuse, but we have come to a point where absolute thriving is within our reach. We are unstoppable. We have created everything we need in order to be, do or have anything we can embrace within our idea of who we are.
My admonition to you is, let who you are be defined by nothing less than complete and total well-being. This is my radicalism. Can you feel me?
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Indigo Ocean Dutton, MA is an author and prolific founder. You can find out more about her mindset liberation work at The Winning Start or participate in her spiritually sourced political activism gatherings at Deep Activism.